This weekend, most Americans will "fall back" -- turning their clocks back one hour and marking the end of daylight saving time.
Daylight saving time was originally implemented in an effort to conserve energy, said Hendrik Wolff, assistant professor of economics at the University of Washington. Daylight Saving Time was extended from April through October to March through November in 2007.
In 2008, the United States Department of Energy released a study on the difference of energy usage during the additional four-week span of Daylight Saving Time.
“The extra four weeks of daylight saving time saved about .5 percent in total electricity per day,” Joshunda Sanders, spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Energy, said. “While this might not sound like a lot, it adds up to electricity savings of 1.3 billion kilowatt-hours -- or the amount of electricity used by more than 100,000 households for an entire year.”
Sanders added that the savings were found during a three to five-hour span during the evening. While later daylight hours have decreased the usage of electricity during evening hours, the difference is made up by increased electricity usage in the morning, said Wolff.
Researchers have been able to monitor the differences in energy usage at several points. Not only were researchers able to monitor energy usage in the United States when daylight saving time was extended in 2007, Australia temporarily extended its daylight saving time in sections of the nation during the 2000 Summer Olympics. The results, Wolff said, were conclusive.
“Energy usage is highest in the evening after people get home from work,” Wolff said. “We do find this cost does get reduced, but not as much as predicted. On the other hand, we found a new bump in the morning, because we found it is colder and darker. Overall, we found that overall costs are about the same (with an extended daylight saving time), and actually it is slightly higher.”
Wolff said fellow researchers have evaluated other costs, such as productivity, vehicle accidents and loss of business. But one benefit, according to Wolff’s research, people are more recreational with later daylight hours. And for this reason, Wolff is in support of extended daylight saving time, despite some economic costs.
“When I work until 5 p.m., I would rather have a nice long evening to go with friends and family to have outside barbecues,” Wolff said. “I like the fact that the sun sets later. My evenings will get a lot shorter and my ability to go running or play soccer outside, all these fun activities is more complicated. I could do them in the morning, but I would rather have all my daylight in the evening.”